Montana Book Tour

I began the journey to Montana and the mini-book tour in my home state on pins and needles. Amazon was late shipping one of my titles, and I was waiting for the delivery truck. According to Amazon tracking, my box of books was “out for delivery” by 9 pm. On the truck was a short order of 24 Musings of an UnGeisha books. I had wanted 30, but for some reason the order was split, 24 & 6. I needed those books to fulfill book bundles and BookClub in a Box gift boxes—and to have a supply for the tour.

In the meantime, a volunteer role that I took on to try to build community in our condo complex was exploding. I went into an ad hoc meeting of condo residents who were concerned with the information sheet that I was working on. During the meeting my books arrived! It wasn’t 9 pm, my worst nightmare, but an early 2:30 pm. I exited the meeting hastily to rescue my books, and hit the road to the lake house where my book supplies were stored. My intent was to get as far along the 12 hour drive as I could.

Fortunately, I had prepared my tour boxes earlier, so all I had to do was load up, and give my son/assistant/roommate Lee instructions to mail back ordered Musings books and boxes. I always worry about hitting deer driving late, and the sun sets early in the fall—no long, extended summer daylight to keep me company. I pulled into Fargo around 9:30, both deer and my truck intact, and spent the night.

The nice thing about travelling alone is that there’s no one to wait for getting ready. It’s just me. I was able to hit the road by 6:30 am (5:30 Mountain time) and made good time across North Dakota. I was eating Chili Fritos and drinking Diet Coke, listening to a Louise Penny audio book, The Cruelest Month. All those Frito chips settled in my gut, and by noon I was sleepy. I stayed awake by stopping at the Cracker Barrel in Bismarck not to eat but to shop in their little general store. Then I made it as far as a fuel fill up in Dickinson and then a side trip off the interstate through Wibaux and Terry, Montana. In Miles City I fueled up again, hit Walmart and drove through main street, recognizing the 600 Club where the folks used to go to whoop it up at the Miles City Ram sale, and the tennis courts that my nieces played tennis on.

From Miles City to Hardin it’s about a 2-hour drive and every curve feels like home. It is on this stretch that my brother Robert, my dad and I flipped a sheep truck driving the to Ram Sale. Going home to Montana isn’t the same as the old days when my mom was alive. I drove right past her house, my childhood home, to go to my sister Bernice’s.

The next morning I spoke to four Hardin High School classes. Three of my great/grand nieces/nephews were in the classes. That was way cool. This is my alma mater, and walking the halls, while different, feels the same somehow. The kids look taller, and the ratio of Natives to whites has changed. In the 70’s, the school was predominately white. There were a few of us that were shades of yellow or brown. The student population now is mostly a warm, native brown.

I spoke to the marketing class and three English classes, all advanced placement or honors, sophomores, juniors and seniors. It was great fun, but after talking for four hours straight, broken only by a few Q&A’s and the class period changeovers I was spent. I respect those teachers that do this work day in and out.

Thursday evening was my first event at the Hardin Library. Turnout was great! Family & Friends all showed up, as well as some people I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to speak—remember, I am new to this job—but it was clear I wasn’t going to be able to visit with everyone, and that clearly some of the people expected me to speak. So I did. I talked for so long my sister in the back gave me the cut off sign—pulling a pretend knife across her neck. I cut it short as quickly as I could. Be careful when you ask an extrovert to talk…

The next night I was in Billings at This House of Books. The downtown and Montana Avenue has an ArtWalk the first Friday of the month, and I was lucky enough to hit it. I had worked the ArtWalk at my brother Harry Koyama’s gallery on Montana Avenue a few years previously. My promotional work on Facebook paid off. In addition to the walk- in traffic generated from the ArtWalk, there were members of This House of Books (a co-op bookstore), and several high school classmates and friends.  We had a mini-reunion of the HHS class of 72. And then there’s my family, of course. I’m the youngest of eight siblings, so the number of brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, grand/great nieces, nephews…you get the picture.

My final event for the weekend was a signing at Barnes & Noble Billings. I was so surprised that two of my nieces came from Sheridan and Dayton, Wyoming. My nephew Stace and his wife Jennifer showed. His creative side comes out as a landscape architect and his son, Chance Robinson, is a rising star artist who has moved from Billings to Denver where he is a resident artist in the Cherry Creek area. A couple of friends brought their friends. And we had another mini HHS reunion.

So now I am decompressing. I’ll head back to Hardin for a day. Monday I have an appointment with This House of Books members to talk publishing options. On Tuesday I’m headed to Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency, which is part of a land grant program to establish colleges on the reservations. I will be available to speak to students. Then I am back to Billings to stand in line to meet Craig Johnson, the author of the Longmire series. I want to see how a real pro does it!

It’s been a whirlwind and tremendous learning experience. I am humbled and thankful for my family and friends in the community. I hope I can give back as much as I have gotten from my home state, Montana.

And away we go!

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